CROW Case of the Week: Mind Your Line

To catch a fish, it takes knowledge, patience and the right fishing gear. But, while fishing line and hooks can reel in a good catch for an angler, fishing gear can also be a killing device for innocent wildlife. 

Last year, CROW admitted 101 patients related to fishing hooks or monofilament line entanglement. The numbers increased greatly from 2017 when there were 65 admissions with reported fishing gear incidents. As of July 24 this year, there have been 55 cases that have arrived with hook and line injuries. 

The fact remains that monofilament line and hooks discarded or left by careless fishermen can entangle, choke, snag and even kill its victims. For example, birds have been found hanging upside down in trees, exhausted after hours of struggling to try to free themselves from being wrapped up in lines. It is also a fact that some of those animals suffer agonizing deaths due to the entanglement. 

It is hoped that through continued educational awareness, more anglers will be reached and their behavior modified. One such public outreach program to help in that process is called Mind Your Line. 

“It is a collaboration between the City of Sanibel and all the local conservation organizations – CROW, Sanibel Sea School, ‘Ding’ Darling and SCCF – to help reduce the impact of monofilament/ hooks in the environment by educating the public about responsible disposal of fishing gear, and to provide information on what to do if they encounter wildlife affected by a hook or line,” said Dr. Robin Bast, CROW’s staff veterinarian. Anglers have been urged to dispose of any used or loose fishing line within provided monofilament stations, often found at boat ramps, fishing piers or other park sites that fishing takes place.

If fishing in the Sanibel region, you can find many recycling bins along the Sanibel Causeway islands as well as one near the Sanibel Lighthouse, one at Smith Pond East, one each at Clam Bayou, Blind Pass and Bowman’s Beach access, and several within the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Not only can the clear, strong, flexible plastic do harm to birds, manatees, sea turtles, whales, dolphins and rays (to name a few), it also non-biodegradable. Scientists estimate it can take 300 to 500 years to decompose.

“Monofilament line and hooks do indeed take a long time to decompose,” said Dr. Bast. “This means that hooks and line left in the environment can have lasting impacts on wildlife in that area. Wildlife can get entangled in the line, resulting in either starvation or traumatic injury. By using the appropriate recycling bins, you can enjoy fishing and still protect your local wildlife neighbors.”

One of the most common victims of monofilament line entanglement or hook attachment is the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). Removing a hook may require surgery. “It depends on the location and extent of injury. In a pelican, if the hook was swallowed and is in the throat, we can actually reach in with a gloved arm and manually remove the hook that way. If the hook is embedded, it often requires surgery -- simple cases involve pushing the barb of the hook through the skin, clipping the barb off and backing the hook out,” said Dr. Bast. “Hooks that have been embedded for a long time require more complex surgical removal.”

Volunteers can help by cleaning up loose monofilament line, emptying monofilament recycling bins, collecting data and getting involved in public outreach and education. “The easiest way for everyone to help is by disposing of monofilament line responsibly and removing any line or tackle you may encounter while enjoying the environment. Additionally, there are lots of opportunities to help with clean-up efforts, emptying the monofilament recycle bins, and assisting with data collection and public outreach. For more information on how you can help, go to www.mindyourline.org.” 

Recycling is the key to saving these poor victims from medical attention or death. 

“Hook and line injuries are preventable, and you can help save wild lives and protect the environment with the simple act of recycling and advocating for others to do the same,” added Dr. Bast. “If you encounter an animal that needs help, please call CROW for assistance and check out the Mind Your Line website for more information.” 

CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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